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Table of Contents
Preliminary Table of Contents
Annual Editions: American Government, 13/14
UNIT 1: Foundations of American Politics
Part A. Basic Documents
1. The Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, 1776
This document formally announces that 13 former British colonies have become the free and independent United States of America. It eloquently identifies certain historic principles on which their claim to independence rests.
2. The Constitution of the United States, 1787
The Constitution provides an organizational blueprint for the national government and for the federal relationship between the national government and the states. In addition, the first 10 amendments, commonly known as the Bill of Rights, spell out limits on what the government can do. A commentary preceding the Constitution provides a brief account of the writing of the Constitution and also notes some of its significant features.
3. Federalist No. 10, James Madison, The Federalist Papers, 1787
James Madison argues in support of the union of the 13 states under the new Constitution. According to Madison, a system of representative democracy governing a large territory and many people will help control the undesirable effects of "faction."
4. Federalist No. 51, James Madison, The Federalist Papers, 1787
According to James Madison, both the separation of powers among three branches of government and the division of powers between the states and the central government will help preserve representative democracy under the new Constitution.
Part B. Contemporary Views and Values
5. What Makes a Country Great?, Bruce Stokes, National Journal, June 4, 2011
Bruce Stokes reports that the first Your Better Life Index, released by the OECD in 2011, shows that Americans' quality of life does not compare particularly well with the quality of life in the other 33 OECD countries. In turn, according to Stokes, the notion of American exceptionalism needs careful re-examination.
6. What They Don't Know, Fred Barbash, CQ Weekly, June 13, 2011
Fred Barbash reports that the vast bulk of Americans see the national government's budget deficits as a major problem, but exhibit woeful ignorance about the proportions of the national government budget spent on different government programs.
7. Legacy Nation, F. H. Buckley, The American Spectator, March 2012
F. H. Buckley reports a recent study showing that income mobility in the United States compares unfavorably with that in most other industrialized democracies. Buckley considers what two prominent Founding Fathers seemed to think about income mobility, explores why the United States lags behind other comparable countries today, and laments what seems to be the loss of a traditional element in American exceptionalism.
8. Does Government Need to Grow?, Andrew G. Biggs, National Review Online, November 16, 2012
Andrew Biggs explores the relationship between economic growth and increase in the size of governments, and notes that a critical mass of Americans believe that they deserve ever-increasing social welfare payments. Biggs concludes that stopping the growth of government will be difficult, but that it is worth the effort to try.
9. The You're-On-Your-Own Society, Katha Pollitt, The Nation, November 7, 2012
Katha Pollitt writes that the biggest difference between presidential candidates Obama and Romney was the difference between wanting to solve shared problems through government programs or preferring to leave every individual to sink or swim without a tax-funded government safety net. Pollitt argues in favor of Obama's sharing stance and in opposition to the individualism associated with Romney's candidacy.
10. Anatomy of the 1%, David Moberg, In These Times, January 2012
David Moberg suggests that the "1%" of Americans targeted by the Occupy Wall Street movement combine income, wealth, and power, and gives four reasons why the tremendous concentration of resources in the top 1% of Americans is "bad."
11. Stuff White People Like, Jonathan Cohn, The New Republic, November 12, 2012
Jonathan Cohn considers the argument that presidential candidate Barack Obama beat opponent Mitt Romney because government gives away "free stuff" to minorities. He counters it by identifying government programs that benefit white Americans as much as or more than they do minorities: Medicare, tax exemptions for employer-provided health insurance and home mortgage payments, and the like.
Part C. Constitutional and Legal Matters
12. It Is Time to Repair the Constitution's Flaws, Sanford Levinson, October 13, 2006
Sanford Levinson assesses the adequacy of the U.S. Constitution and observes that many of its structural provisions serve as obstacles to the practice of democracy in the American political system.
13. Debating Citizens United , Floyd Abrams and Burt Neuborne, The Nation, January 31, 2011
Two respected commentators on freedom of speech and of the press, Floyd Abrams and Burt Neuborne, present opposing positions on the Supreme Court 's landmark Citizens United decision of 2010.
14. Title IX 40 Years Later: Game Changer, Erin Buzuvis, Ms., Spring/Summer 2012
Erin Buzuvis chronicles the differences that Title IX, enacted in 1972, has made in various components of girls' and women's education. She notes that improved opportunities in sports might be Title IX's best-known consequence, but that it also has improved girls' and women's access to various curricular options and has helped protect against sexual harassment in an educational context.
15. Daring to Defer, James Oliphant, National Journal, June 30, 2012
James Oliphant tries to put into perspective the deciding vote of Chief Justice John Roberts on the constitutionality of the historic 2010 health care reform law that has come to be known as Obamacare. He praises Roberts's decision to defer to the elected branches of government and to recognize the appropriate limits on the Supreme Court in dealing with such legislation.
UNIT 2: Structures of American Politics
Part A. The Presidency
16. The Founders' Great Mistake, Garrett Epps, The Atlantic, January/February 2009
Garrett Epps argues that the framers of the Constitution created a dysfunctional and dangerous presidency that has caused problems for the United States throughout its history. He offers a number of reforms relating to the office of chief executive and the interaction of the president with the legislative branch.
17. Studying the Gipper, The Economist, January 6, 2011
This selection identifies similarities and differences in the Reagan and Obama presidencies.
18. Obama, Explained, James Fallows, The Atlantic, March 2012
Based on interviews with members of Congress, members of the Obama administration, officials from previous administrations, and others, veteran president-watcher James Fallows presents a lengthy assessment of President Barack Obama's performance in office during his first term. Fallows addresses both shortcomings and accomplishments of the president.
19. Still Waiting for the Narrator in Chief, Matt Bai, New York Times Magazine, November 4, 2012
Given Barack Obama's ability as a compelling storyteller that he showed before he became president, Matt Bai notes the surprising failure of President Obama to provide a coherent narrative during his first term in office. Bai asserts that developing and communicating such a narrative is an essential part of being president.
Part B. Congress
20. When Congress Stops Wars: Partisan Politics and Presidential Power, William G. Howell and Jon C. Pevehouse, Foreign Affairs, September/October 2007
The authors explore the various ways that Congress can limit presidential war powers. They also note that the party composition of Congress and the presidency is an important factor in how much influence Congress exerts.
21. Divided We Stand, John Aloysius Farrell, National Journal, February 25, 2012
John Aloysius Farrell reports that recent congressional voting ratings show extreme polarization between Democrats and Republicans. He explains how and why the increase in polarization has occurred.
22. The Case for Congress, Lee H. Hamilton, Wilson Quarterly, Spring 2004
Lee Hamilton defends Congress against a series of frequently voiced criticisms of the institution and of its individual members.
23. How to Get Our Democracy Back: There Will Be No Change Until We Change Congress, Lawrence Lessig, The Nation, February 22, 2010
Lawrence Lessig argues that the U.S. Congress is politically bankrupt because of the centrality of fundraising on Capitol Hill and the way that that phenomenon has shaped Americans' perceptions of Congress. He expresses disappointment in President Obama 's failure to try to reform Capitol Hill and identifies two reforms aimed at improving the reputation of Congress.
24. Master of the Senate, Robert Costa, National Review, January 24, 2011
Robert Costa focuses on the leadership style and accomplishments of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a pivotal and powerful figure in a period of divided government.
25. Lugar: A Statesman Is Left Behind, Meredith Shiner, CQ Weekly, May 14, 2012
Meredith Shiner reports on the surprising end to the 36-year career of much-respected Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana. She notes his failure to make changes that might have prevented his losing to a Tea Party-backed challenger in the Republican primary.
Part C. The Judiciary
26. Court under Roberts Is Most Conservative in Decades, Adam Liptak, The New York Times, July 24, 2010
According to Adam Liptak, systematic data show that in its first five years the Roberts Court was more conservative than any Supreme Court since the 1930s. He also notes that the Roberts Court overturned fewer laws per year than its immediate predecessor, the Rehnquist Court (1986–2005), did.
27. Big Chief, Jeffrey Rosen, The New Republic, August 2, 2012
Jeffrey Rosen puts into perspective the role of Chief Justice John Roberts in the historic Supreme Court ruling on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. He argues that Roberts was most concerned with the long-term legitimacy of the Court.
28. Tipping the Scales, James Oliphant, National Journal, July 28, 2012
James Oliphant argues that, notwithstanding the pivotal fifth vote by Chief Justice John Roberts to sustain the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), Roberts is leading the Supreme Court in a long-term conservative direction.
29. How the Sausage Is Made, Margot Sanger-Katz, National Journal, June 9, 2012
Margot Sanger-Katz describes the process that occurs after the Supreme Court hears oral arguments, a process that leads to one opinion or multiple opinions on the relevant case.
30. Justices Venture into Court of Public Opinion, Seth Stern, CQ Weekly, January 31, 2011
Seth Stern reports that current Supreme Court justices are increasing their visibility and public presence through memoirs, televised speeches and interviews, and the like. He also provides historical perspective and addresses the potential institutional implications for the Supreme Court.
Part D. Bureaucracy
31. Marking Time: Why Government Is Too Slow, Bruce Berkowitz, The American Interest, September/October 2007
Bruce Berkowitz addresses why government bureaucracies are typically so slow to produce results. He discusses various factors that explain this phenomenon and suggests ways to improve the situation.
32. Legislation Is Just the Start, Lee Hamilton, Center on Congress at Indiana University, August 9, 2010
Lee Hamilton notes that the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 leaves many matters for government bureaucrats to resolve. He also suggests that the bureaucrats will be subject to considerable pressure from lobbyists whose clients have an interest in how the act is implemented.
UNIT 3: Process of American Politics
Part A. Political Parties and Voters
33. The Party's Problem, Ramesh Ponnuru, National Review Online, November 14, 2012
Ramesh Ponuru, a leading conservative journalist, calls the 2012 elections an electoral catastrophe for the Republican party, one that resulted from the fundamental weakness of the party. He rejects explanations that center on candidate Mitt Romney and unelectable, extremist senatorial candidates.
34. The Culture War and the Jobs Crisis, Thomas B. Edsall, New York Times,November 11, 2012
In the context of the electoral prospects for the two parties in the future, Thomas B. Edsall explores social, cultural, and moral issues, and the "hollowing out" of the American job market. He concludes that Democrats have the advantage in the so-called culture war and suggests that neither party has so far adequately addressed the growing jobs crisis.
35. Polarized Pols versus Moderate Voters?, Stuart Taylor, Jr., National Journal, December 5, 2009
Stuart Taylor considers whether the much lamented polarization of American politics today stems more from a polarized electorate than from polarization of elected representatives and party activists. After surveying relevant data, Taylor concludes that voters are less polarized than party and government elites.
36. The Radical Right Returns, Paul Starobin, National Journal, October 2, 2010
Paul Starobin examines the contemporary Radical Right in American politics in the context of nativist sentiments that have repeatedly manifested themselves throughout American history.
Part B. The Conduct of Elections and Nominations KEEP 3/4, ADD 1. NET: 0
37. America Observed, Robert A. Pastor, The American Prospect, January 4, 2005
Robert A. Pastor identifies "dysfunctional decentralization" as the central cause of problems in America's election system and compares various dimensions of the system with those of other countries.
38. Six Myths about Campaign Money, Eliza Newlin Carney, National Journal, August 7, 2010
In the aftermath of the Supreme Court's 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, Eliza Carney Newlin identifies and discusses what she sees as six myths about campaign financing in the American political system.
39. The American Presidential Nomination Process: The Beginnings of a New Era, Bruce Stinebrickner, McGraw-Hill Contemporary Learning Series, 2008
Bruce Stinebrickner reviews four eras in the history of the presidential nomination process and argues that changes evident during the 2008 process suggest that a fifth era may be coming soon.
40. The Evidence-Based Revolution, Barbara Trish, Campaign and Elections, July/August 2012
Barbara Trish observes that social science and campaign practices are beginning to intersect in contemporary elections. According to Trish, microtargeting and experimentation are key elements in this development.
Part C. Interest Groups and Political Movements
41. Big Oil's Big Man in Washington, Tony Newmyer, Fortune, July 4, 2011
Tony Newmyer profiles the president and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute, the powerful oil industry organization headquartered in Washington, DC.
42. Who Gave Us Obamacare?, Kevin Glass, National Review, August 13, 2012
Kevin Glass reports the major roles that interest groups representing medical professionals, the pharmaceutical industry, hospitals, health insurance companies, and so forth played in formulating what has come to be known as Obamacare. Glass notes that despite President Obama's declaration that the policy-formulation process would be transparent, the interest groups' influence was mostly exercised behind closed doors.
Part D. Media
43. A See-Through Society, Micah L. Sifry, Columbia Journalism Review, January/February 2009
Micah Sifry makes the case that the American political system is entering "a new age of political transparency." He argues that the Web is changing the ways that Americans access and consume all sorts of information at all levels of government.
44. Governing in the Age of Fox News, Paul Starr, The Atlantic Monthly, January/February 2010
Paul Starr traces the history of American media through two earlier stages, and argues that the current stage is a hybrid system that combines elements of the first two. He notes the emergence of partisan media outlets such as Fox News and MSNBC, both of which co-exist with less partisan professional journalism.
45. Campaign Coverage in the Time of Twitter, Jodi Enda, American Journalism Review, Fall 2011
Jodi Enda reports that coverage of election campaigns has changed markedly in the past decade or so. She notes how social media have affected the news cycle, the traveling habits of both journalists and candidates, and the opportunities for in-depth investigative reporting.
Part E. The 2012 Elections
46. Contemporary American Democracy in Operation: The Electoral Process in 2012, Bruce Stinebrickner, McGraw-Hill Contemporary Learning Series, 2012
Bruce Stinebrickner identifies four distinctive features of the American electoral process as it functioned in 2012. He writes that each feature was salient and consequential for the American political system, and proceeds to explain why.
47. Future Shock, Ronald Brownstein, National Journal, November 10, 2012
Ronald Brownstein reports on the three-part "coalition of the ascendant" that helped re-elect President Obama: the millennial generation, minorities, and college-educated whites. He also notes that demographic changes will increase the proportions of the groups that tend to support Democratic presidential candidates.
48. The GOP Has Problems with White Voters, Too, Nate Cohn, The New Republic, November 12, 2012
Nate Cohn focuses on Romney's and Obama's support among white voters in the 2012 presidential election, and reports that Republican Romney did not poll as well among white voters outside the South as George W. Bush did in 2000 and 2004. As Cohn notes, piling up bigger majorities in Southern states does not help a candidate any more in the Electoral College than winning them by smaller margins.
49. A Stalemate, Not a Mandate, James Ceaser, RealClearPolitics, November 13, 2012
James Ceaser calls the 2012 elections "the perfect status quo event," with President Obama being re-elected and both houses of Congress continuing under the same party's majority control. He also notes that what Obama did during his first term, including enactment of Obamacare and more government involvement in society, will be safeguarded as a result of his re-election, but that, after Obama passes from the political scene in four years, Republicans will have another chance to nominate a winning presidential candidate.
50. Secret of the Obama Victory? Rerun Watchers, for One Thing, Jim Rutenberg, New York Times, November 12, 2012
Jim Rutenberg describes how the 2012 Obama campaign used information and technology to shape its TV advertising tactics and get-out-the-vote efforts in ways that were far superior to the Romney campaign's performance.
UNIT 4: Products of American Politics
Part A. Domestic Policy
51. America the Undertaxed, Andrea Louise Campbell, Foreign Policy, September/October 2012
Andrea Louise Campbell puts American fiscal policy, especially tax policy, into cross-national perspective. She reports that the United States has very low taxes, little redistribution of income, and a very complex tax code.
52. Generational Warfare, Nick Gillespie and Veronique de Rugy, Reason, August/September 2012
Using an inter-generational perspective, the authors critically assess American national government policies on Social Security and Medicare. They conclude that substantial reform is needed.
53. What We Don't Know Can Hurt Us, Tim Fernholz , The American Prospect, December 2010
Tim Fernholz notes that accurate information is necessary to craft good public policy. He identifies six areas in which missing information is handicapping the government's ability to make sound policy.
54. The Realities of Immigration, Linda Chavez, Commentary, July/August 2006
Linda Chavez tries to set the record straight about immigration and immigration reform and uses historical, economic, sociological, and policy perspectives to do so.
55. How to Save Our Kids from Poverty in Old Age, Phillip Longman, Washington Monthly, July/August 2012
Phillip Longman proposes American Stakeholder Accounts for each child born in the U.S. who is eligible to get a Social Security number. He argues that his proposal would help reduce economic inequality and provide more senior citizens with a satisfactory source of income after their retirements.
Part B. National and Homeland Security
56. The Tyranny of Metaphor, Robert Dallek, Foreign Policy, November 2010
Robert Dallek identifies and assesses three historical myths that have undermined prudent foreign policy and national security decisions for the better part of a century.
57. Worth Fighting—or Not, Burt Solomon, National Journal, June 13, 2009
Burt Solomon considers the major wars in which the United States has participated and notes that both unintended and intended consequences must be taken into account in assessing them.
58. Back to Normalcy, Paul Kennedy, The New Republic, December 30, 2010
Paul Kennedy argues that the United States is changing from an abnormally dominant role in world affairs that has lasted for a half-century or more to the more normal role of being one of a small group of great powers. He also analyzes how the U.S. is currently faring on three factors on which the country's status in world affairs is said to rest.
59. Why Iran Should Get the Bomb, Kenneth N. Waltz, Foreign Policy, July/August 2012
Kenneth Waltz writes that Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons is desirable. He argues that stability in the Middle East and in the world would be enhanced, and he explains why.